A few simple but crucial tests yet for
  Republicans' dreamboat, George W. Bush


  I know exactly how the Republicans feel. They've ensorcelled themselves.

  They really, really want this relationship to work out. After eight lonely years
  they've eagerly invented the image of

  their desires, imbuing him with magical qualities. Their fantasy guy will sweep
  in and transform their humdrum little lives. They're banishing all doubts, ruling
  out all rivals, ignoring any disturbing intrusions of reality.

  They are counting the moments until the Big Crush replaces the Big Creep.

  You can picture Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, Rep. Dick Armey of Irving
  and House majority whip Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, acting like giggling
  schoolgirls, drawing hearts in their "G.W.B." scrapbooks while they watch
  Dawson's Creek.

  Yup, the Republicans are bewitched. And that means soon they'll be
  bothered. And then bewildered.

  Dreamboats always sink.

  Bush goes on his blind date with history this weekend, chaperoned by a
  couple of hundred ravenous reporters, making his maiden campaign swing to
  Iowa and New Hampshire.

  There is a stopover in Kennebunkport, Maine, a town that, like his name,
  evokes the presidency. Just in case anyone missed the connection, Junior will
  be stopping by to celebrate George Sr.'s 75th on Sunday.

  Republicans should remain besotted as long as their crush can pass a few
  simple tests:

  1. He'll be more deft on a rope line than Bill Clinton.

  2. He will keep everyone from realizing that "compassionate conservatism" is a
  fallacy, that you can't be generous and mingy at the same time.

  3. He will be so attractive to women that soccer moms won't even listen to Al
  Gore babbling about how he'll fix traffic jams and suburban sprawl.

  4. His position on abortion will be so nuanced, so finely tuned, so beautifully
  befuddling that the Christian Coalition will think he's fervently anti-abortion
  and the National Organization for Women will understand that he's secretly

  5. When reporters ask why he wasn't in Vietnam, he'll have a much better
  excuse than Dan Quayle.

  6. The fact that Bush has been studying foreign affairs so diligently, and the
  fact that he now knows not to call the Kosovars "Kosovians" or the Greeks
  "Grecians," will be seen as signs of growth and maturity, not as the beginning
  of some horrible Quayle gaffe trajectory.

  7. If a nude picture of W. dancing on a bar does show up, it will be flattering
  and have good lighting.

  8. His platform will be so appealing that voters won't notice that the
  Republicans can't pass a simple spending bill and don't even have the pretense
  of an agenda.

  9. His position on gun control will be so nuanced, so finely tuned, so
  beautifully befuddling that Rosie O'Donnell and Charlton Heston will both rush
  to endorse it.

  10. Boomers will find him groovy, even though he once confessed that in the
  '60s he did not like the Beatles when they went through their "weird
  psychedelic period."

  11. His vision will be as compelling as Ronald Reagan's and his manners as
  elegant as his father's.

  12. His position on Social Security will be so nuanced, so finely tuned, so
  beautifully befuddling that it will be hailed by the American Association of
  Retired Persons, Wall Street and MTV.

  13. He will never lose that famous temper.

  14. Reporters will gush over him more than Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

  15. His pledge-torturing, beer-guzzling frat-boy past will seem endlessly
  amusing, like the raffish Otter in Animal House.

  16. Even if he did do something illegal, his escapades will seem classier than
  Bill Clinton's.

  17. His position on campaign finance reform will be so nuanced, so finely
  tuned, so beautifully befuddling that it will get Republicans off the hook with
  Common Cause without stopping the GOP's soft-money pipeline.

  18. People will buy that story about his being a self-made businessman.

  19. His part-ownership of the Texas Rangers will make him seem even more
  of a jock than Bill Bradley.

  20. He'll be so wildly popular with blacks and Hispanics that the Republicans
  will lose their image as the Simon Legree party.

  21. He'll be tough on China without making it give back the secrets it stole
  during the Bush and Clinton administrations.

  22. He will be seen as a true Texan. He won't need pork rinds.

  Dowd, based in Washington, D.C., is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for
  The New York Times.